8 No Spend Challenge Rules• Savvy Budget Boss (2024)

Are there any no spend challenge rules you should follow? The short answer is ‘yes’…but you get to set them yourself.

The good news is, there are no hard-and-fast rules you must follow if you are interested in doing a no-spend challenge. The bad news is, most people will not succeed.

Thankfully, with proper planning, you don’t need to be one of them.

Here are some tips that will help you plan for (and finish) your next no-spend challenge.

What is a no-spend challenge?

A no spend challenge (also known as a spending freeze) is a quick way to save money, pay off debt, or simply get your budget back under control after a month (or two) of excessive spending.

To start a no-spend challenge, you simply set a period of time during which you will not spend money on anything outside of essentials (monthly bills, basic food, gas, and medical care).

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” John D Rockefeller

No Spend Challenge Rules

The first rule of a no-spend challenge is that you get to set your own rules.

Kinda like the first rule of fight club is, you don’t talk about fight club.

That said, there are some universal guidelines that most people accept as no spend challenge rules which should be followed in order to be successful:

  1. Know your ‘why’
  2. Decide on a timeframe
  3. Set pre-planned ‘cheat’ days
  4. Do not include necessary spending in the challenge
  5. Eat from your pantry before going grocery shopping, then only buy the basics
  6. Don’t go on a shopping spree just before (or after) the challenge
  7. If you slip up, don’t quit
  8. After the challenge, use any money saved to pay down debt or put in savings

What are you saving for?

The best way to begin a no spend challenge is to start with your ‘why’. Design a mood board of your dream vacation, home, or car and keep it in a handy spot so you can refer back to it when you’re struggling with the challenge.

And, I promise, there will be times during your no-spend challenge that you will inevitably struggle.

Another way to motivate yourself is to imagine a life where you no longer worry about having ‘enough’ money. A life where you are debt-free and financially independent.

A no-spend challenge can get you there faster!

How long will your spending freeze last?

Typically, people set their no spend challenges to last:

  • A weekend
  • A week
  • An entire month

But, again, you are in control of your spending freeze. If you want to extend or shorten the time you spend on it, you have the freedom to do so.

Will your no-spend days be consecutive or cumulative?

If you know ahead of time that there will be certain days in the month where you will ‘need’ to spend, say your sibling’s birthday, or an upcoming wedding, you should aim to complete your no-spend challenge based on a total number of days added up throughout the month rather than a set number of days in a row.

Will you be allowed to ‘cheat’?

Decide ahead of time whether you will allow yourself any ‘cheats’ during your challenge.

Allowing for cheat days will keep you from having an all-or-nothing approach and will allow you to forgive yourself if (and when) you slip-up.

Remember, ‘cheat days’ are not meant to be used as ‘excuses’ for spending.

Things allowed in a no-spend challenge:

  • Mortgage/rent
  • Utilities
  • Phone
  • Internet
  • Groceries
  • Insurance
  • Medicine
  • Gas
  • Debt payments
  • Transportation expenses
  • Free entertainment

Things NOT allowed in a no-spend challenge:

  • Restaurant meals
  • Salon services
  • Cable/Streaming TV
  • Clothing/shoes
  • Paid entertainment
  • Alcohol
  • Gifts
  • Hobby gear
  • Other ‘wants’

Related: 50 Simple Ways To Save Money On Groceries [Without Coupons]

8 No Spend Challenge Rules• Savvy Budget Boss (1)

No Spend Challenge Rules: Keys to Success

Remember when I said that the majority of people who start a no-spend challenge will fail? The reason they fail is (usually) because they failed to plan.

Here are some tips that will help keep you on track.

Know the difference between wants vs needs

How many times have you caught yourself saying, “I NEED a new purse, this one is falling apart.” or “Our bathroom is so outdated, we NEED to remodel it.”

The only true ‘needs’ in life are basic food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and health care. Everything else is gravy.

Avoid rationalizing

When you rationalize, you try to ‘explain away’ bad behavior. Sometimes, the reasons you come up with may appear to be perfectly logical and just. More likely than not, they are just poor excuses dressed up as slick reasons.

Say you slip up during your no-spend challenge and purchase a latte. You then rationalize the purchase by saying, “It was an emergency! If I didn’t get some caffeine in me fast, I was going to fall asleep while driving!” or “My blood sugar was low, and I may have ended up in the hospital if I didn’t get some sugar in me!”

Both of these ‘reasons’ for breaking your spending freeze sound perfectly logical (on the surface). After all, no one wants you to end up in an emergency situation over a $3 cup of coffee.

However, both of these crafty reasons are really just feeble excuses in disguise.

I mean really, what’s the likelihood of ending up in the hospital because you skipped a cup of coffee?

Rather than attempt to rationalize your mistakes, own them. Admit you gave in to a moment of weakness, then resume your no-spend challenge.

Whatever you do, don’t let these moments of weakness cause you to give up!

Plan to succeed

If you plan to fail, you will. When it comes to sticking to a no-spend challenge, a positive attitude can mean the difference between success and failure.

As the old song goes…

“You’ve got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive. Eliminate the negative. Latch on to the affirmative. Don’t mess with Mister In-Between…”

Additionally, having an accountability partner (or two) will help keep you motivated. This is why telling your friends and family about your spending freeze is a good idea.

So go ahead and shout it from the rooftops!

After all, you may even inspire someone else to start their own no-spend challenge!

If you fall off the wagon…

Get back on!

The best way to stay motivated to finish a no-spend challenge is by focusing your attention on something other than spending.

Distract yourself by working on a project you’ve been putting off. Look for ways to bring in more money instead of spending it:

  • Sell unused items
  • Turn in your spare change
  • Start a side hustle
  • Start a blog
  • Use Ibotta to save money on groceries and toiletries

“Success is not final: failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

Related: 140 Best Frugal Living Tips That Will Save You Money

How can I stop spending money?

If you are a chronic spender, you may have to take steps to trick yourself into not spending.

For example, you may want to literally ‘freeze’ your spending by freezing all of your credit cards in a block of ice.

You may also want to put your Amazon Prime account on hold or have someone else change your password while you are participating in the challenge.

Frequently, we spend money for one of two reasons: out of habit or boredom.

Steps you can take to break your bad spending habits:

  • Implement a ‘cooling-off’ period of 24 hours before making a purchase
  • Use a spending tracker – Grab our Free Budget Template!
  • Disgust yourself: Add up all of the money you spend yearly on unnecessary purchases, write that number down, and tape it to your wallet
  • Open your eyes to how the “Joneses” really live. Are they deep in debt? On the verge of divorce? Self-medicating?
  • Calculate the number of hours of work required to pay for a particular item
  • Carry an ’emergency’ bag with bottled water and snacks to avoid going through the drive-thru
  • Avoid window-shopping – Cut out the non essentials
  • Use cash instead of cards

How can I do a spending freeze when I have kids?

While it’s true that kids (and their many activities) can throw a monkey-wrench in our best budgeting efforts, it is entirely possible to succeed at a no-spend challenge in spite of the little rugrats.

Here’s how to do a no-spend challenge with kids.

1. Be honest. Tell the kids ahead of time that you won’t be spending money on anything extra, and explain why. You may also want to reassure them that the family isn’t ‘broke’ this is just a challenge you’ve decided to do.

2. Get them onboard. Kids love being part of something bigger than they are. If your kids are old enough, promote them to ‘accountability buddy’ status. Reward your child each time they remind you not to spend money.

3. Keep them entertained. If you end up canceling your child’s paid activities, keep him/her busy with free entertainment instead. A few free ideas are: go for a bike ride, have a coloring contest, and play board games together.

4. Learn to say “no”. Rest assured you won’t do any permanent psychological damage to your child by saying ‘no’. In fact, it may even help them come up with creative (free) solutions to their own problems.

What should I do with all the money I save?

During your no-spend challenge, make a list of everything you wanted to buy (but didn’t). At the end of the challenge, transfer the money you saved into a separate savings account, or use it to pay off debt.

I hope these no-spend challenge rules and tips have helped you kickstart your own spending freeze so you can save more money for the things that matter to you!

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

What is a no-spend challenge?

A no-spend challenge, also known as a spending freeze, is a method to save money, pay off debt, or regain control of your budget after a period of excessive spending. During a no-spend challenge, you set a specific period of time during which you refrain from spending money on anything outside of essentials like monthly bills, basic food, gas, and medical care [[1]].

No Spend Challenge Rules

When it comes to a no-spend challenge, you have the freedom to set your own rules. However, there are some universal guidelines that most people accept as no spend challenge rules for success:

  1. Know your 'why': Start by identifying your motivation for participating in a no-spend challenge. It could be to save for a specific goal, pay off debt, or regain control of your finances [[1]].
  2. Decide on a timeframe: Determine the duration of your spending freeze. It can be a weekend, a week, an entire month, or any other period that suits your goals and circumstances [[1]].
  3. Set pre-planned 'cheat' days: Consider allowing yourself occasional cheat days during the challenge. This approach prevents an all-or-nothing mindset and allows for forgiveness if you slip up [[1]].
  4. Do not include necessary spending: Exclude necessary expenses like mortgage/rent, utilities, phone, internet, groceries, insurance, medicine, gas, debt payments, transportation expenses, and free entertainment from the challenge [[1]].
  5. Eat from your pantry before grocery shopping: Prioritize using the items in your pantry before buying additional groceries. Only purchase the basics to supplement what you already have [[1]].
  6. Avoid shopping sprees: Refrain from going on a shopping spree just before or after the challenge. This helps maintain the purpose of the no-spend challenge and prevents unnecessary spending [[1]].
  7. Don't quit if you slip up: If you make a mistake and spend money during the challenge, don't give up. Acknowledge the slip-up, learn from it, and continue with the challenge [[1]].
  8. Use saved money wisely: After completing the challenge, consider using the money saved to pay down debt or put it into savings. This allows you to make progress towards your financial goals [[1]].

How can I stop spending money?

If you struggle with spending money impulsively, there are steps you can take to break those habits:

  1. Implement a 'cooling-off' period: Before making a purchase, give yourself a 24-hour cooling-off period. This helps prevent impulsive buying and gives you time to evaluate whether the purchase is necessary [[1]].
  2. Use a spending tracker: Keep track of your expenses using a budget template or a spending tracker app. This helps you visualize where your money is going and identify areas where you can cut back [[1]].
  3. Disgust yourself with unnecessary spending: Calculate the total amount of money you spend annually on unnecessary purchases. Write down that number and keep it visible as a reminder of the impact of your spending habits [[1]].
  4. Challenge the illusion of the "Joneses": Reflect on the true financial situation of those who appear to have it all. Often, they may be deep in debt or facing other challenges. This perspective can help you resist the urge to keep up with others' spending habits [[1]].
  5. Calculate the hours of work required: Before making a purchase, calculate the number of hours you would need to work to afford that item. This exercise can provide a valuable perspective on the value of your time and help you make more mindful spending decisions [[1]].
  6. Carry an 'emergency' bag: To avoid impulse purchases while out and about, carry a bag with bottled water and snacks. This way, you won't feel the need to stop at a drive-thru or make unnecessary purchases [[1]].
  7. Avoid window-shopping: Minimize exposure to tempting shopping environments. Cut out non-essential window-shopping trips to reduce the temptation to spend [[1]].
  8. Use cash instead of cards: Consider using cash for your purchases instead of relying solely on credit or debit cards. Paying with physical money can make you more aware of your spending and help you stick to your budget [[1]].

How can I do a spending freeze when I have kids?

While it may seem challenging to do a spending freeze when you have kids, it is entirely possible with some planning and communication. Here are some tips for successfully completing a no-spend challenge with kids:

  1. Be honest with your kids: Explain to your children in advance that you won't be spending money on anything extra during the challenge. Let them know it's a temporary challenge and reassure them that the family is not financially struggling [[1]].
  2. Get them involved: Involve your kids in the challenge by making them accountable buddies. Reward them when they remind you not to spend money, and encourage their participation in finding free entertainment options [[1]].
  3. Provide alternative entertainment: If you need to cancel paid activities for your children, replace them with free entertainment options. Go for bike rides, have coloring contests, or play board games together [[1]].
  4. Learn to say "no": It's important to set boundaries and say "no" to unnecessary purchases. Teaching your children the value of money and the importance of making thoughtful choices can be a valuable life lesson [[1]].

What should I do with all the money I save?

During your no-spend challenge, make a list of everything you wanted to buy but didn't. At the end of the challenge, consider transferring the money you saved into a separate savings account or using it to pay off debt. This way, you can see tangible progress towards your financial goals and make the most of the money you saved [[1]].

I hope these tips and guidelines help you plan and successfully complete your no-spend challenge! Remember, with proper planning and determination, you can achieve your financial goals.

8 No Spend Challenge Rules• Savvy Budget Boss (2024)
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